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A term particularly associated with Nietzsche, occurring in the title of his book The Genealogy of Morals. Genealogy is part historical reconstruction of the way certain concepts have come to have the shape they do, and part a ‘rational reconstruction’ or story about the function they serve, which may or may not correspond to historical evolution. In the hands of Nietzsche himself, and those influenced by him such as Foucault, genealogies tend to be subversive and destructive, undermining any attachment to the concepts they consider. But similar stories surrounding the evolution of law or society, conventions and other institutions, may be quite reassuring, highlighting the adaptive functions such developments have served.

Subjects: Philosophy — Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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